There has been a lot of buzz out of NYFF over Till and in particular Danielle Deadwyler’s performance as Mamie Till. I saw the film at a screening here in Utah the day I came back from New York and for the most part I was impressed. There will be some who claim it’s too safe, but I appreciate what it is trying to do.
Director Chinonye Chukwu made a choice to focus on Mamie and her grief rather than depicting the violence of the situation. Of course, Mamie’s son Emmett Till was murdered by supremacists for whistling at a white woman in Money, Mississippi in 1955. Mamie insisted his casket be left open for all to see what the men had done and then she testified at the trial where the murderers were acquitted by an all-white male jury.
I recently complained about She Said feeling too safe and sanitized, so I understand why some will claim that here. However, that movie felt self-congratulatory and self-important in a way I didn’t love. That’s not the case here. We are meant to focus on Mamie and her strength and courage and Deadwyler does a fantastic job with her portrayal.
What’s a movie you remember watching at school? https://t.co/VmOrw6bjRZ
— Rachel's Reviews- Queen of Movies! (@rachel_reviews) October 18, 2022
Till is a movie I can see playing in schools for years to come and as such the PG-13 has value. It’s important we have the violent films, but also key to have ones that can help introduce teens (13 and up) to history and begin important discussions that are unfortunately still topical to this day.
I vividly remember watching a TV movie called Race to Freedom: The Underground Railroad (ad) at school and it having a big impact on me. I’m sure it’s not the greatest film as far as production values and gritty realism but it was effective in introducing me to American history and making our heroes comes alive.
Like I said, I can see Till having that kind of legacy in classrooms. It effectively portrays the grief Mamie experienced without relishing in the evil of the perpetrators. We see Emmett’s body without watching the lynching taking place and that has value particularly for younger viewers who will be able to relate with Emmett.
There are parts of Till that feel like a TV movie (which I’m fine with) particularly in the production values and supporting performances but Deadwyler and Whoopi Goldberg as Alma, Mamie’s Mother, elevate everything. If you have middle and/or high school age child take them to see Till and have a discussion with them about what happened to Emmett and how we can make our world better even today. That conversation is what will make Till a great film more than anything you’ll see on the screen.
7 out of 10
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